I am beyond blessed to live in the most bio-diverse desert on spaceship Earth.
As the heat begins to climb above 100 degrees, the Sonoran desert blooms with an edible bounty of medicinal herbs and flowers. By summertime the Mesquite, Ironwood & Palo Verde trees will be dropping their edible seed pods, Jojoba bushes will be full of beans and various cacti will be bursting with fruit. As if all this isn't enough, when the monsoons arrive, the enigmatic, DMT producing Bufo Alvarius toad will emerge from 9-10 months of hibernation. It's magical here. I've moved away many times, yet I always end up running home to this bizarre landscape.
This week we began wandering in search of Ocotillo flowers (Fouquieria splendens) for the seasonal Ocotillo Honeysuckle blend. It will be back in stock in about 2 weeks! Three of the herbs in this blend are somewhat astringent(drying) which makes it a great tea for relieving congestion and clearing mucus. Because Olive leaf is a vasodilator and increases circulation, the addition of it to every blend helps to promote the actions of other herbs and movement through the body.
For 1-3 months every year (depending on how much rain we've gotten), Ocotillos push out densely packed, delicate red flowers. Getting your harvesting time right is important because you want to wait until they've opened and begun to release their sticky nectar. ***When wildcrafting most herbs please be careful not to kill the mother plant or to take so much that it would hinder its ability to survive.
You can't really hike anywhere around here without stumbling upon some of our most abundant plant friends, Chapparal (Larrea tridentata), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and Mormon tea (Ephedra nevadensis) so we ended up harvesting a little of each on our journey. Chapparal was traditionally used to protect the skin from sun damage and because of controversy over the safety of ingesting this herb, my favorite way to use it is in an olive/jojoba oil salve. The resins released from Chapparals leaves give our desert rain its distinct smell, making this salve even more delicious. Who doesn't want to smell like desert rain?
Brittlebush contains alkaloids that cause a numbing/tingling effect in the mouth when you chew on its leaves or the resin it secretes from its stems. For those suffering from tooth/mouth pain, Brittlebush is a very good friend to have, not to mention that its bright yellow, daisy-like flowers are incredibly cheerful! Spanish settlers noticed that Brittlebush resin made a wonderful incense similar to Frankincense when burned. Mormon tea is another astringent herb useful for drying out mucus within the lungs and sinuses. Unlike other species of Ephedra, Mormon tea does not contain ephedrine so it won't speed you up. Remember, if you are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medications you should ask a healthcare professional before consuming just about anything.
Most herbalists will tell you that it's best to consume herbs from the region you personally inhabit. While I tend to agree, it's by no means a strict rule. One of the most amazing things about Arizona is that within 2 hours of driving you travel from desert into mountainous Pine forest, where Mullein & Pine needles are abundant. Pine needles contain more vitamin C than citrus and considering that the lungs use vitamin C to rebuild tissues & blood vessels, we decided to blend them with broncholilator herb Mullein for a wonderful respiratory syrup. Click here for that recipe!
*For educational purposes only. Not intended to diagnose, treat, cure,or prevent any disease.